Belize is the first country in the world to ban trawling completely. And it's thanks to the efforts of Oceana.
But, it's not that simple. There are implications of such a ban, particularly on the Northern Fishermen's Cooperative which owned the only two trawlers in the country.
The trawling ban will cost them about 750 thousand dollars annually in loss of revenues.
That comes out of the earnings of cooperative members, who are regular fishermen. So to somewhat offset that loss, OCEANA worked out an agreement to buy the trawlers for six hundred and fifty thousand dollars. OCEANA also added in 150 thousand towards a loan and grant agreement as compensation for giving up the industry.
At a signing over today in Belize City, OCEANA's Vice President Audrey Matura-Shepherd explained:
Audrey Matura-Shepherd, Vice President OCEANA:
One of the biggest concern was that once there was a ban, the Northern Fishermen Cooperative that owns these assets would have been left with an asset in their hands that as no value. So they had to look at not only the aspect of, 'Yes we want to assist with doing whatever is best for environmental issues in Belize, but we have to look at what people make their livelihoods on, and all the investments they've made.' So the buy-out of the trawlers was to make sure that they didn't have that investment on their hands again, and that we would purchase them instead, and now that OCEANA owns the Trawlers, it will be accepting proposals to see how we should use them, or who should get them. But I can tell you what affected the price that we ended up giving was not only the actual value - the physical value of those vessels - we had to look at what the Cooperative actually owed the bank, so that its a value that they put on this vessel, even if we say that we could sell it for less or for more. And we also looked at the intangible value of them giving up something, but wrapped up in the intangible value is the fact that we created the loan scheme - the grant and loan scheme. One of the benefits is that by them selling the trawlers, they get to pay off their loan with the bank, and that's obligation that they want to get rid of. The other aspect that you can confirm with Mr. Ovel, is that the trawlers were not making and being as successful as it was at one point. So with the price of fuel going up, with them having to put one of the trawlers out of service, having to maintain the trawlers - dry-dock them and everything, they found themselves losing little by little each time, and they were only making enough money to pay off the bank. So if it was far more commercially viable, it would not have been an easy negotiation. I am sure that they would have requested far more money."
Ovel Leonardo, Chairman Northern Fishermen Cooperative:
"When you look at Guatemala and Hunduras, they have trawlers; the're still doing it, but we're living in 2011 and there are changes. We have to live with the changes, and I believe that the society has to look into other ways of how we can make that money back, how we can diversify, and how we can work in the best interest of the country."
OCEANA is accepting creative proposals for what to do with the trawlers, the only condition being that they cannot be used for trawling anywhere in the world.
The eight hundred thousand dollars was raised by OCEANA's foreign funding partners.